Video by Stefan Modrich | Assistant Sports Editor
Coach Tim Esmay chastised his team Friday for a lack of offensive production in its 5-4 loss, lighting a fire under the top of the order and sparking ASU’s 9-4 win Saturday over visiting Oregon.
“You don’t win a lot of games going 2-19,” Esmay said. “Our guys came right back and had great at-bats, and we made some adjustments tonight.”
In what has been a recurring theme in a back-and-forth 2014 season, after wasting a spectacular outing from sophomore Brett Lilek the night before, the Sun Devils (25-21, 13-10 Pac-12) pounded out 13 hits to compensate for the brief hiccup from Saturday starter, sophomore Ryan Kellogg.
Kellogg dug an early hole for the Sun Devils, issuing consecutive walks on 10 pitches, and a bunt single by junior catcher Shaun Chase would load the bases for sophomore third baseman Mitchell Tolman.
Tolman notched his third RBI of the series on a sacrifice fly to deep center, putting the Ducks (36-15, 14-9 Pac-12) on the board.
Oregon’s offense started fast on Friday night and continued the trend Saturday, jumping out to a 4-0 lead courtesy of redshirt junior left fielder Kyle Garlick’s three-run home run to right center, his fourth of the year.
“He had a little trouble finding the zone early,” Esmay said. “Kellogg’s earned the right to make an adjustment, and he made some pitches that brought the control of the ballgame right back into his hands. He’s not only a good pitcher, but his makeup and character is off the charts.”
Sophomore center fielder Johnny Sewald extended his hitting streak to four games, scoring three of ASU’s nine runs, a career high, as ASU’s leadoff man and offensive spark plug went 4-4 on the evening.
His single to right kicked off a three-run first inning, as junior shortstop Drew Stankiewicz doubled home Sewald, and junior left fielder Jake Peevyhouse punched a single through the right side to score Stankiewicz.
After an error and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases, freshman catcher Brian Serven drove in Peevyhouse to narrow the Oregon lead to 4-3.
ASU was relentless in combating previously undefeated Oregon starter senior right-hander Jeff Gold (9-1, 3.39 ERA), who lasted a mere 2 2/3 innings, surrendering eight runs on nine hits.
“(Gold) was a good pitcher, and since he was 9-0, he hadn’t had the pressure of anyone beating him,” Sewald said. “Everyone was hitting balls hard, and we just wanted to come out there and get on him early to put him on his heels.”
The Sun Devils did not miss a beat in the second inning, benefiting from an error and a walk that loaded the bases for junior first baseman Nate Causey.
Causey crushed a ball to center field, reaching second on an error and clearing the bases for his team-leading 49th hit of the season to break open a game ASU would dominate in all phases from that point forward, tacking on a pair of insurance runs in the third and fourth innings to turn a 7-4 lead into an insurmountable 9-4 margin.
While the Sun Devils did not score again after the fourth inning, Kellogg’s career-high 12 strikeouts and seven consecutive scoreless innings slammed the door on the hapless Ducks, whose top four hitters combined to hit 2-13 Saturday.
Freshman Eder Erives punctuated Kellogg’s stellar performance with a strikeout of junior pinch hitter Steven Packard to end the game, throwing a scoreless ninth in a non-save situation.
Esmay was cautious to not overstate the level of optimism inside the clubhouse, saying that there is no room for complacency.
“This team is not going away, and our guys didn’t (sit back) after that first inning. Winning is what we’re all about, but it’s also about being able to do it again tomorrow,” Esmay said. “We need to (retain) that same intensity and focus.”
Junior right-hander Darrin Gillies (1-4, 5.09) and senior righty Brando Tessar (4-0, 2.13) will square off in the rubber match and final game between Oregon and ASU at Packard on Sunday. The game is set for a 12 p.m. first pitch and will be televised regionally via the Pac-12 Networks.
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